Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

From Touchstone Magazine's "Daily Reflections":

Saturday, December 24

Hebrews 1:1-14: Today's Gospel from Matthew calls Jesus "Emmanuel," which means "God with us," and in the very last verse of that gospel Jesus promises to be with us all days, even to the end of the world. The mystery of the Incarnation implies that God is permanently with us. The permanence of what God has wrought in Christ is a major thesis of this first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which stresses the theme in a series of contrasts.

First, the permanence, the ultimacy, the absolute finality of God's revelation in Jesus is contrasted with the previous and partial revelation of God in the ancient prophets. In times past, says the Sacred Text, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways, but in these last of days He has spoken to us by a Son.

Second, the permannence of Jesus is contrasted withose mutable, those come-and-go revelations of God in His angels. In verse 7 the angels are called "winds" and "flames of fire," but the next verse addresses the Son like this: "Your throne, O God, stands forever and ever."

Third, the permanence of Jesus is contrasted with the heavens themselves and the earth on which we stand: "They will perish . . . You will roll them up like a cloak, like a garment they will be changed." But speaking to Christ, the author constrasts such fugacity with the eternal stability of God's Son: "You remain . . . You are the same, and Your years will have no end." Later on, this same epistle will speak of "Jesus Christ, yesterday, today, and forever."

This book, like all the New Testament, was composed during a period of great political stability, but in almost every other way that era was marked by instability and mediocrity. For instance, we may contrast the shallow theater of that age with what had been accomplished centuries before by Sophocles and his friends. We may observe the disparity of the philosophical climate of this period with the robust thought of preceding centuries in which Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had addressed humanity.

The age in which the New Testament was composed was an age in search of a ground on which to set its feet, and age in quest of constancy and enduring substance. The philosophy of the elite at this time was Stoicism, a sophisticated pursuit of permanence within the structure of the soul itself. But the preachers of the Gospel insisted that the true source of permanence was not the human soul, but God, who made Himself available to man in Jesus Christ.

In our own age of instability and mediocrity this must also be the truth living in the consciousness of the disciples of Jesus. We possess in our hearts, and therefore we proclaim with our lips and in our lives, the true foundation and ground of our existence, that throne which endures forever and ever.

Amy Wellborn:The Dark Side of Christmas

December 22, 2005, 8:37 a.m.
A Sword Will Pierce Your Heart
The dark side of Christmas.
By Amy Wellborn

About a year ago, my husband and I traveled across the chilly cornfields of Indiana to the frigid cornfields of Ohio to have our younger son baptized.

It was not quite, but almost, spur of the moment. A bishop, an old friend of my husband's, would be visiting his mother for a few days after Christmas, and yes, he could certainly squeeze a baptism in. The parish church was available, the bishop's sister and mother would be witnesses, and there you have it: insta-baptism.

Perfect timing. A baptism is a happy occasion centered on a baby. Christmas is another happy time centered on a baby, and a fine opportunity to focus ourselves on the vaunted Real Meaning of Christmas. Babies, love, and family. Comfort, joy, and peace.

But perhaps not so fast.

The discussion about Christmas in our society is endless and loud. The self-proclaimed defenders of Christmas go about daring salespeople to wish them "Happy Holidays," boycotting businesses that sell "Holiday Trees," and reminding one and all that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

Which he is. But I say that many of the Defenders of Christmas have it almost as wrong as the secularists. Their vision of Christmas — centered on words, a rather generic baby, and nostalgic visions of families and fireplaces — actually gets no closer to the real Real Meaning of Christmas than do generic wishes for peace and joy in this holiday season.

What they forget, neglect or conveniently ignore is what we can not-too-dramatically call the Dark Side of Christmas.

The really traditional Christian remembrance of the Nativity is not about sweetness. It is about awe, fear, and trembling, and it is shot through with hints of suffering to come.

Mary, with a scandalous pregnancy. Joseph, courageous enough to take her on despite it. A birth among farm animals. The threat of death, from the very start, necessitating flight. Mary, told by the prophet Simeon that because of her son, her soul will be pierced by a sword (Luke 2:35).

We view the elements of the story in a nostalgic haze — how sweet to be born with the goats. But is it? Is it sweet? Would you want to give birth among goats?

How charming that Mary and Joseph had to wander before and after the birth of the child. Charming until you remember the reasons why, the doors shut in the face of a heavily pregnant woman, the threat of death from a jealous king.

Look at it closely, with clear eyes. At every turn in this story of this baby there is threat and fear and powers circling, attempting to strike at the light.

We might forget, we might wrap up Christmas in good cheer, but Christian tradition doesn't. It's striking that the next day — the very next day — after Christmas, the Church remembers not glad tidings, angels, and shepherd boys, but a bloody death by stoning. St. Stephen it is, the first Christian martyr.

St. Stephen is followed by St. John on December 27th, who may not have met a violent death, but who, the tradition tells us, died in a prison of sorts, in exile for his faith, far away from the "civilized" powers that had sent him there.

December 28th brings us back to babies, but with no relief — it is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, remembering the children Herod ordered slaughtered, according to Matthew's gospel, in his rabid fear of the rival king.

The message is clear and hard: Following this baby, as he reaches to us from the resin manger, looking out at us with the soft-eyed cattle and docile sheep, comes at a price.

There is an edge to Christmas, a harshness, and a different kind of promise than that implied by the easy words of peace and glad tidings. It is a mystery, all of it. The Word made flesh indeed, but into a world that was from the beginning set against it, that sought with every bit of strength at hand to stay in the darkness.
So it was that our baby's baptism was on that day, December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The heart skips a beat now. Not so fitting, perhaps, as we contemplate the lovely soft living baby being washed, but in the shadow of sorrow.

My baby's baptism in Ohio was, according to earthly judgment, a disaster. The weather was miserable, icy, and cold. No one's cameras would work. The bishop decided we might as well immerse the baby fully, which was okay with us, but turned out to be not okay with the baby, who commenced screaming his lungs out at the unexpected bath, and not okay either with the bishop's elderly mother, who was quite horrified. And circling around us the whole time was our three-year-old, who seemed to have absorbed the demons driven out of his brother during the exorcism part of the rite, and who would not, in the face of many and varied threats, be still. He raced like — yes — a demon, in and around the church, constantly, through the whole affair. I've helped out at many baptisms in my work in parish ministry but this one was, I think, the worst.

But perhaps it was more fitting than it first appears. Trivial problems, yes, but still an apt metaphor for the Christian life begun there, and yet to come for Baby Michael: not the warmth of a tidy, neat manger scene, with everyone gathered in comfort, calm, and peace, but something startling and new, a shock to the system, entered upon in a world of frustration and discord, circled by forces intent to disrupt.

Glad tidings of comfort and joy, and Merry Christmas indeed. But without awareness of the risk of discipleship, and the reality that the baby in the manger ends up hanging on a cross, those words have about as little power to change the world as "Happy Holidays."

Amy Welborn is the author of 12 books, most recently of The Catholic Woman's Book of Days. She blogs at

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cam Edwards: PETA's Ties to Eco-Terrorism

Cam Edwards
December 23, 2005

This week’s revelation that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been the subject of an FBI investigation into the animal rights group’s possible ties to terrorism has stunned many liberals. PETA’s general counsel, Jeff Kerr, called the investigation “shocking and outrageous”, saying “it's an abuse of power by the F.B.I. when groups like Greenpeace and PETA are basically being punished for their social activism."

Two things here. First, how is PETA being punished? They’re being investigated. There’ve been no charges. There’ve been no indictments. They’re not being punished at all.

Secondly, and really the broader question: Should PETA be investigated for possible ties to terrorist groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, two domestic terror groups responsible for a series of arsons, bombings, and other violent acts that have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage? Again, many liberals say no. At the popular lefty website, a front page story decried the investigation, saying “Everything that many of us consider moral (taking care of the environment, opposition to the war, freedom to speak our minds, to protest, etc.) is on the FBI's ‘there might be a terrorist connection list.” So what are the chances that the liberals are right? Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the FBI’s files on PETA. I do, however, have an internet connection. Five minutes on Google can get you some pretty interesting information.

Did you know, for example, that PETA gave $1500 to the Earth Liberation Front back in 2001? That would be the same Earth Liberation Front recently described as one of the nation’s top domestic terror threats. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, this “gift” (acknowledged in PETA’s end of the year tax return) is the only public donation the Earth Liberation Front has received.

PETA’s tax returns show some other interesting payments as well. A $2,000 payment to a David Wilson, at the time a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front. A $5,000 payment to Joshua Harper, a self-described anarchist who faces terrorism charges for smoke bombing an insurance company with ties to a medical research firm. Harper, incidentally, denies being a terrorist. He did tell the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, however, that he has a spark of hope “"a spark of hope in every broken window, every torched police car and every mink running free as their hearts desire." He also says his ultimate goal is the “complete collapse of industrial civilization”.

Harper’s not the only animal rights extremist with a gift for eloquence. How about this quote from… well, let me wait to tell you who actually said this.

“I think it would be a great thing if, you know, all of these fast-food outlets and these slaughterhouses and these laboratories and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it's perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows, and you know everything else along the line. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.”

Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds an awful lot like an endorsement of violence. But PETA’s non-violent, so that quote couldn’t have come from one of its leaders, right? Wrong. Those are the words of Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s Director of Vegan Outreach. But hey, this is just one guy. Surely this attitude isn’t common at PETA, right? Well, here’s another quote, this time from PETA’s head, Ingrid Newkirk.

“We are complete press sluts.”

Whoops. Wrong quote, although she did say that in the New Yorker magazine back in 2003. This is the quote I was looking for.

“I will be the last person to condemn ALF.”

She’s right. PETA doesn’t condemn the Animal Liberation Front. In fact, Newkirk has written a gushing biography of the terrorist group entitled “Free the Animals”. She’s provided financial support for the ALF publication No Compromise. PETA has, over the years, compared ALF to the French Resistance, called the terrorist group the “army of the kind”, and has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the defense funds of ALF members charged with crimes.

In fact, Newkirk herself ended up as a footnote in the trial of Rodney Coronado, an ALF member convicted of firebombing a laboratory at Michigan State University. Newkirk received two packages from Coronado, one the day before the bombing, the other shortly afterwards. The second package was actually intercepted by the FBI. Inside the package were documents stolen from the lab. U.S. Attorney Michael Dettmer said Newkirk had “arranged to have the package[s] delivered to her days before the MSU arson occurred.”

Again, you don’t need to have a top secret clearance to learn these things. You just need to do some digging on the internet. After learning these facts, I’m not “shocked and appalled” that the FBI is investigating a possible tie between PETA and eco-terrorists. I’d be shocked and appalled if the government wasn’t looking into PETA.

I’ve been fortunate enough to write a few columns on the animal rights extremists for, and after every one I always get a few emails from people criticizing me for writing about these organizations. They’d rather I highlight the positive stories of animal lovers, of which there are many. I’ll make these folks a deal. As soon as I start seeing some of these animal lovers renounce PETA, ALF, and others who condone violent terrorist actions, I’ll write a nice story about an animal lover. If not, I’ve got a great story in the pipeline about a number of animal rights extremists recently arrested in New Jersey, including one guy facing charges of “making a terrorist threat”. The peaceful, nonviolent activists strike again.

Cam Edwards is the host of “Cam and Company” on and Sirius Satellite Radio. A veteran talk show host and political analyst, he also blogs at .

Charles Krauthammer: Impeachment Nonsense

December 23, 2005
Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- 2005 was already the year of the demagogue, having been dominated for months by the endlessly echoed falsehood that the president ``lied us into war.'' But the year ends with yet another round of demagoguery.

Administration critics, political and media, charge that by ordering surveillance on communications of suspected al Qaeda agents in the United States, the president had clearly violated the law. Some even suggest that Bush has thereby so trampled the Constitution that impeachment should now be considered. (Barbara Boxer, Jonathan Alter, John Dean and various luminaries of the left have already begun floating the idea.) The braying herds have already concluded, Tenet-like, that the president's actions were slam-dunk illegal. It takes a superior mix of partisanship, animus and ignorance to say that.

Does the president have the constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches against suspected foreign agents in the United States? George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr (one critic calls him the man who ``literally wrote the book on government seizure of electronic evidence'') finds ``pretty decent arguments'' on both sides but his own conclusion is that Bush's actions were ``probably constitutional.''

In 1972, the Supreme Court required the president to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on domestic groups, but specifically declined to apply this requirement to snooping on foreign agents. Four appeals courts have since upheld presidential authority for such warrantless searches. Not surprisingly, the executive branch has agreed.

True, Congress tried to restrict this presidential authority with the so-called FISA law of 1978. It requires that warrants for wiretapping of enemy agents in the U.S. be obtained from a secret court. But as John Schmidt, associate attorney general in the Clinton administration, writes: ``Every president since FISA's passage has asserted that he retained inherent power to go beyond the act's terms.'' Indeed, Clinton's own deputy attorney general testified to Congress that ``the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes,'' then noted a few minutes later that ``courts have made no distinction between electronic surveillances and physical searches.''

Presidents always jealously guard executive authority. And Congress always wants to challenge the scope of that authority. This tug-of-war is a bipartisan and constant feature of the American system of separation of powers. President Bush's circumvention of the FISA law is a classic separation-of-powers dispute in the area in which these powers are most in dispute -- war powers.

Consider the War Powers Resolution passed over Nixon's veto in 1973. It restricts, with very specific timetables, the president's authority to use force. Every president since Nixon, Democrat and Republican, has regarded himself not bound by this law, declaring it an unconstitutional invasion of his authority as commander in chief.

Nor will it do to argue that the Clinton administration ultimately accepted the strictures of FISA law after a revision was passed. So what? For the last three decades, presidents have adhered to the War Powers Resolution for reasons of prudence, to avoid a constitutional fight with Congress. But they all maintained the inherent illegitimacy of the law and the right to ignore it. Similarly, Clinton's acquiescence to FISA in no way binds future executives to renounce Clinton's own claim of ``inherent authority'' to conduct warrantless searches for purposes of foreign intelligence.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales chose a different justification for these wiretaps: They were covered by the congressional resolution shortly after 9/11 authorizing the use of ``all necessary and appropriate force'' against al Qaeda. Gonzales' interpretation is based on a plurality Supreme Court opinion written by Sandra Day O'Connor that deemed legal the ``executive detention'' of U.S. citizen and enemy combatant Yaser Hamdi. ``Detention'' is an obvious element of any authorization to use force. Gonzales argues that so is gathering intelligence about the enemy's plans by intercepting his communications.

I am skeptical of Gonzales' argument -- it implies an almost limitless expansion of the idea of ``use of force'' -- while the distinguished liberal law professor, Cass Sunstein, finds it ``entirely plausible'' (so long as the wiretapping is limited to those reasonably believed to be associated with al Qaeda). Sunstein maintains that ``surveillance, including wiretapping, is reasonably believed to be an incident of the use of force'' that ``standardly occurs during war.''

Contrary to the administration, I also believe that as a matter of political prudence and comity with Congress, Bush should have tried to get the law changed rather than circumvent it. This was an error of political judgment. But that does not make it a crime. And only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is anything approaching a high crime and misdemeanor.

© 2005, Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Debbie Schlussel: Spielberg's Munich Pact

Debbie Schlussel
December 22, 2005

When Steven Spielberg began filming Munich in June 2004, he set the tone for his fictional movie about Israeli agents who hunted down the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Spielberg abruptly stopped filming and closed up shop. Why? Because the 2004 Summer Games were happening in August, and Steven Spielberg didn’t want to upset the terrorists.

That’s what Munich is about: not upsetting the terrorists. And rolling over while they attack and kill us. In Steven Spielberg’s world, not going after terrorists brings peace. In the real world, not going after terrorists brings more bloodshed.

When Spielberg began filming in 2004, it was well known that his film was based on George Jonas’ Vengeance – a book discredited as bunk by both Israeli Mossad agents and Palestinians with actual knowledge of the events depicted. So Spielberg claimed the movie was not based on Vengeance. If it’s not based on the book, then why do the credits of this film say it is?

Spielberg lied.

But not as much as he and admittedly anti-Israel scriptwriter Tony Kushner lied in this two-and-a-half-hour-plus celluloid fairy tale. Like the book on which it’s based, Munich is long, boring, and filled with fakery.

Spielberg’s Golda Meir is unsure about going after the Munich terrorists. She wavers and constantly seeks reassurance that this is the right thing. But the real-life Golda Meir could not have been more certain and intent on killing these terrorists.

Spielberg’s “Black September” terrorist group is named after the Munich terrorists, who murdered the Israeli athletes in September. The real-life “Black September” is so named after Jordan’s massacre of 10,000 Palestinians in September 1970 – causing many Jordanian Palestinians to flee for safety in the West Bank and Israel.

Spielberg’s Palestinian terrorists have deals with CIA officials in which they are paid not to harm American diplomats. Real-life Palestinians in 1973 beat to death U.S. diplomats, like Cleo Noel and George Curtis Moore in the Sudan, with Yasser Arafat personally giving the orders. (They were tortured to death and beaten so badly, authorities could not tell which of the two was black and which was white.)

Spielberg’s Palestinian terrorists have cute, young, innocent, piano-playing daughters who will be fatherless. But he never shows the cute, young daughters of the Israeli athletes who were made fatherless – and whose fathers, unlike the Palestinian terrorists, were innocent victims with no choice in the matter.

Spielberg’s Mossad agents say bigoted things like, “The only blood that matters to me is Jewish blood,” and go around killing innocent people at whim. The real-life Mossad agents who hunted the Munich terrorists went to great pains to avoid killing innocents (whether or not they were Jewish), a reason it took so many years and financial resources to get all but one of them. (Jamil Al-Gashey lives safely under the protection of the terror-state Syria.) In real-life, they killed only one innocent man whom they mistakenly believed to be a terrorist – a Moroccan waiter in Norway – for which those Mossad agents responsible were tried, convicted, and imprisoned, something that does not happen in the Spielberg version of events. Spielberg’s Mossad agents complain that Israel has no death penalty, so killing the terrorists violates Israeli law. Real-life Israel does have a death penalty for Nazi war criminals, like Eichmann, and recognized that the Munich terrorists were equally worthy.

Spielberg’s Mossad agents cry and brood a lot, unsure of themselves and why they are pursuing terrorists. Been there, seen that before – in the left-wing Israeli film Walk on Water. But it bears little resemblance to the real Mossad agents who hunted the terrorists. They were not metrosexual, sensitive guys – as badly as Spielberg and Kushner would like them to be. Like Golda Meir, they could not have been more certain of the just purpose of their mission.

Spielberg’s Mossad agents question why they should kill terrorists who murdered innocent people, when they will be replaced by other terrorists. Using that fallacious logic, why have a justice system at all? Bank robbers who go to jail will be replaced by more bank robbers. Ditto for child molesters, rapists, al-Qaeda terrorists, etc.

Then, there is something I haven’t read in other critics’ accounts of Munich – something that made me sick to my stomach. Are the lives of the innocent Israeli athletes so worthless that the scenes in which they are murdered by Palestinian terrorists are interspersed with the self-doubting Mossad agent having sex? How would Steven Spielberg like it if a loved one was shown being bludgeoned in between scenes of a law enforcement official bouncing up and down on top of the agent’s naked wife? This happens twice, the first time with a pregnant woman and a sexual position I thought was reserved for NC-17 and X-rated movies. Thanks for cheapening these murdered athletes’ lives, Spielberg.

From the beginning of this movie, the memories of these innocent victims of terrorism are desecrated, their lives morally equated with Palestinian terrorists’ lives. The work Kushner and Spielberg expended to create this undue symmetry of the asymmetrical is the hardest work they did in the entire film.

What can you expect from the man who said his meeting with Fidel Castro “was the eight most important hours of my life”?

Using voiceovers from TV and radio news accounts of the Olympic massacre, Spielberg presents the media confusion over whether the Israeli athletes and their Palestinian captors survived. Spielberg shows scenes of families of both Israeli athletes and Palestinian terrorists sobbing – as if their relatives are on equal moral footing. After it is confirmed the Israeli athletes were murdered, Spielberg uses news footage showing pictures and names of the Israeli dead. Interspersed with that, he shows Golda Meir and Israeli generals looking though photos and announcing the names of the Palestinian terrorists. They’re equal in this movie – Get it?

That’s the message of this movie: An eye for an eye doesn’t work. Instead we should just allow our enemies to take out both our eyes, with no end in sight. Israel tried Spielberg’s route, and the country’s experience was just the opposite of Spielberg’s message.

When Israel won the Yom Kippur War, when it hunted down the Olympic terrorists, when it invaded Lebanon and had Yasser Arafat in its sites in Beirut, the world respected Israel – and so did its Islamic enemies. And terrorist attacks stopped or slowed. When Israel showed weakness – signing empty peace treaties, like Oslo; pulling out of Southern Lebanon in an hour; and giving away Gaza – the world disdained Israel, and so did the Palestinian terrorists. That's when the terrorist attacks acceleterated. Many more Israelis have been murdered and maimed in the twelve years after the Oslo accords than in the twelve years before.

In Munich, repeated scenes of the Israeli athletes being taken hostage by the Palestinian terrorists show a poster of Masada in the background at their Olympic quarters. Masada was a famous mountain fortress in Israel, where ancients Jews made their last heroic stand against the Romans. Masada became a symbol of Jewish heroism that inspired the imagination and spirit of the founders of Israel.

But the symbolism of the Masada poster is lost on Spielberg. In his Munich vision of the world, he doesn’t want a heroic last stand against terrorists. He just wants us to roll over and die without a fight.

Steven Spielberg built tremendous political capital with the making of Schindler’s List. But he blew it all on Munich. And he just wrote his epitaph with it.
There are a lot of people named Abu in this film – Abu Youssef, Abu Salameh, etc. But the biggest Abu is the one in the credits, Abu Spielberg – Minister of Disinformation.

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Visit Debbie Schlussel's website at She can be reached at

Ann Coulter: Live and Let Spy

December 22, 2005

Apart from the day The New York Times goes out of business -- and the stellar work Paul Krugman's column does twice a week helping people house-train their puppies -- the newspaper has done the greatest thing it will ever do in its entire existence. (Calm down: No, the Times didn't hold an intervention for Frank Rich.)

Monday's Times carried a major expose on child molesters who use the Internet to lure their adolescent prey into performing sex acts for Webcams. In the course of investigating the story, reporter Kurt Eichenwald broke open a massive network of pedophiles, rescued a young man who had been abused for years, and led the Department of Justice to hundreds of child molesters.

I kept waiting for the catch, but apparently the Times does not yet believe pedophilia is covered by the "privacy right." They should stop covering politics and start covering more stories like this.

In order to report the story, the Times said it obtained:

-copies of online conversations and e-mail messages between minors and the creepy adults;

-records of payments to the minors;

-membership lists for Webcam sites;

-defunct sites stored in online archives;

-files retained on a victim's computer over several years;

-financial records, credit card processing data and other information;

-The Neverland Ranch's mailing list. (OK, I made that last one up.)

Would that the Times allowed the Bush administration similar investigative powers for Islamofacists in America!

Which brings me to this week's scandal about No Such Agency spying on "Americans." I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo.
But if we must engage in a national debate on half-measures: After 9/11, any president who was not spying on people calling phone numbers associated with terrorists should be impeached for being an inept commander in chief.

With a huge gaping hole in lower Manhattan, I'm not sure why we have to keep reminding people, but we are at war. (Perhaps it's because of the media blackout on images of the 9/11 attack. We're not allowed to see those because seeing planes plowing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon might make us feel angry and jingoistic.)

Among the things that war entails are: killing people (sometimes innocent), destroying buildings (sometimes innocent) and spying on people (sometimes innocent).

That is why war is a bad thing. But once a war starts, it is going to be finished one way or another, and I have a preference for it coming out one way rather than the other.

In previous wars, the country has done far worse than monitor telephone calls placed to jihad headquarters. FDR rounded up Japanese -- many of them loyal American citizens -- and threw them in internment camps. Most appallingly, at the same time, he let New York Times editors wander free.

Note the following about the Japanese internment:

1) The Supreme Court upheld the president's authority to intern the Japanese during wartime;

2) That case, Korematsu v. United States, is still good law;

3) There are no Japanese internment camps today. (Although the no-limit blackjack section at Caesar's Palace on a Saturday night comes pretty close.)

It's one or the other: Either we take the politically correct, scattershot approach and violate everyone's civil liberties, or we focus on the group threatening us and -- in the worst-case scenario -- run the risk of briefly violating the civil liberties of 1,000 people in a country of 300 million.

Of course, this is assuming I'm talking to people from the world of the normal. In the Democrats' world, there are two more options. Violate no one's civil liberties and get used to a lot more 9/11s, or the modified third option, preferred by Sen. John D. Rockefeller: Let the president do all the work and take all the heat for preventing another terrorist attack while you place a letter expressing your objections in a file cabinet as a small parchment tribute to your exquisite conscience.

Copyright 2005 Ann Coulter
Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

John Perazzo: The New York Times-ACLU War on National Security

John Perazzo
December 21, 2005

When many were counting the mainstream media irrelevant, the New York Times proved its ability to frame the political debate, undermine national security, and possibly force Americans to lose the War on Terror. The Gray Lady held a story about the Bush administration’s authorizing the National Agency to wiretap international phone calls involving al-Qaeda agents, even if one of the parties lived in the United States, for more than a year, releasing the topic to promote a book written by Times reporter James Risen. This – happily, from the NYT’s point of view – coincided with the weekend the Senate was to debate the Patriot Act, resulting in a Democratic filibuster. Although the Bush administration appears to have done nothing illegal (see Ben Johnson’s story on that topic in this issue), the Times has teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union to keep this story alive by adding a “new” story: the ACLU claims the Bush administration is spying on American leftists.

In an article entitled “FBI Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show,” the Times reports that the ACLU has gained access to (and plans to make public) more than 2,300 pages of FBI file information on some 150 protest and activist groups that, according to the ACLU, it alleges may have been unlawfully monitored. The information centers on a handful of groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Greenpeace, and Catholic Workers, the latter of which the Times describes as an organization “which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes.” The article quotes ACLU associate legal director Ann Beeson stating:

It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to [the] NSA to the FBI, to engage in spying on Americans. You look at these documents and you think, wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in FBI files that they're talking about a group like the Catholic Workers league as having a communist ideology.

This was one of several stories the Times floated yesterday to equate George W. Bush with Big Brother. An editorial also accused the administration of “using terrorism as an excuse to spy on Americans.” Ant the NYT ran an AP article headlined, “ACLU Says FBI Misuses Terror Powers,” in which the reporter notes again the ACLU has “accused the FBI of misusing terrorism investigators to monitor some domestic political organizations,” and quotes ACLU attorney Ben Wizner lamenting potential abuses.

First of all, this is not a new story: this is the follow-up to a string of vacuous allegations the ACLU began to make in July. As Ben Johnson pointed out, the original investigations involved street violence left-wing groups planned or threatened during the 2004 political conventions, including a desire to “Bring Najaf to New York.”

The probe, in July just as this week, examined Green leftist groups such as PETA and Greenpeace for obvious reasons: many such organizations commit illegal acts or have ties to those who do. The federal government was concerned that members of Greenpeace and PETA lend support to the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, the two most destructive domestic terror entities in the United States. Thus an investigation into these organizations was neither unreasonable nor illegal. And contrary to Ann Beeson’s benign description, Catholic Workers is indeed a pro-communist, anti-capitalist entity, claiming that “private and state capitalism bring about an unjust distribution of wealth, for the profit motive guides decisions. Those in power live off the sweat of others' brows, while those without power are robbed of a just return for their work.”

It is also possible the government investigated the Green Left for reasons other than suspected ties to terror. “Just being referenced in an FBI file is not tantamount to being the subject of an investigation,” said John Miller, a spokesman for the bureau. “The FBI does not target individuals or organizations for investigation based on their political beliefs. Everything we do is carefully promulgated by federal law, Justice Department guidelines and the FBI’s own rules.” But as far as the ACLU is concerned, the mere existence of FBI files on these organizations reeks of McCarthyism.

More importantly, this story has absolutely nothing to do with the Bush administration’s spying on al-Qaeda, except as the Times hopes to smear the president. The Justice Department merely gave the FBI (not the NSA) mildly enhanced powers to collect intelligence on domestic terrorists, the ELFs, ALFs, and Timothy McVeighs of the world. This authority included “greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities.” FBI agents surfing internet pages millions of others may be viewing at the same time constitutes Gestapo tactics? According to the ACLU: yes.

And again, the Bush administration is on sound legal footing when it collects intelligence on al-Qaeda operatives. It should be noted that notwithstanding the ACLU’s posturing, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) allows the President to do precisely what his critics have condemned him for doing. The relevant section of FISA reads, “[T]he President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year,” provided that there is strict congressional oversight in the intelligence committees, and that the surveillance is directed only at agents of foreign powers. Mr. Bush says he has complied with these laws. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales explains:

People are running around saying that the United States is somehow spying on American citizens calling their neighbors. In fact, the program is limited to calls and communications between the United States and foreign countries…What we're trying to do is learn of communications, back and forth, from within the United States to overseas members of al-Qaeda…This is not about wiretapping everybody. This is about a very concentrated, very limited program focused on gaining information about our enemy.

One would never know this if he depended upon the ACLU’s skewed version of reality for his information.

Gonzales also expressed great concern that the news leak regarding President Bush’s authorization of domestic spying “is really hurting national security, this has really hurt our country, and we are concerned that a very valuable tool has been compromised.” But the Times and the ACLU could not care less.

Who Is the ACLU?

Although it piously characterizes itself as America's “guardian of liberty,” the ACLU consistently sides with the terrorists in any matter involving the U.S. government. Since 9/11, the ACLU has led a coalition of civil liberties groups in promoting non-cooperation with the provisions of the Patriot Act. (As of today, 400 municipalities and states have adopted the ACLU resolution of non-cooperation.) In July 2003, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Section 215 of the Act, portraying it as an egregious invasion of personal privacy in the tradition of what would be expected from a totalitarian state.

The ACLU described a scenario where, because of Section 215, “the FBI could spy on a person because they don't like the books she reads, or because they don't like the websites she visits. They could spy on her because she wrote a letter to the editor that criticized government policy.” Said ACLU attorney Ann Beeson, “Ordinary Americans should not have to worry that the FBI is rifling through their medical records, seizing their personal papers, or forcing charities and advocacy groups to divulge membership lists.” But as Heather MacDonald points out, “grand juries investigating crimes have always been able to subpoena the very items covered by [Section] 215 – including library records and Internet logs – without seeking a warrant or indeed any judicial approval at all. Section 215 merely gives anti-terror investigators the same access to such records as criminal grand juries, with the added protection of judicial oversight.”

The ACLU’s description of a scenario where an FBI agent could simply storm into a library and demand records is a caricature of the most ludicrous kind. Before it can even make a request for such information, the FBI must first go through several levels of bureaucratic review. It must convince the FISA court (which oversees anti-terror investigations) that an individual is knowingly engaged in terrorism or espionage, and that the documents it seeks are relevant to the fight “against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

But Section 215 of the Patriot Act represents just one of the many fronts in the ACLU's assault on national security, an assault that has been broad and relentless:

· The ACLU was a signatory, along with the pro-Castro Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), to a March 17, 2003 letter urging members of Congress to oppose the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, also known as Patriot Act II.

· The ACLU joined CCR in endorsing the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign and the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004 – both measures unambiguously hostile to the Patriot Act.

· When the INS and Justice Department instituted a program requiring males visiting the U.S. from Arab and Muslim nations to register with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the ACLU organized protests against what it called this “discriminatory” policy.

· The ACLU protested an FBI anti-terrorism initiative to count and document every mosque in America, even though such houses of worship are frequently used as recruitment bases for Islamic jihad.

· On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, when FBI and Homeland Security agents were tracking down illegal Iraqi immigrants considered to be dangerous, the ACLU set up a telephone hotline and conducted “Know Your Rights” training sessions giving illegals free advice on how to avoid deportation.

· In a 2002 federal lawsuit naming Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta as a defendant, the ACLU challenged a new Aviation Transportation Security Act policy prohibiting non-citizens from working as airport security screeners.

· In conjunction with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) -- a Hamas spinoff, several of whose leaders have been indicted for, and convicted of, terrorist activities – the ACLU has lobbied hard against the heightened scrutiny of individuals from terrorism-sponsoring countries at airports and border checkpoints. “Profiles are notoriously under-inclusive,” says ACLU legislative counsel Gregory Nojeim. “Who knows who the next terrorist will appear as? It could be a grandmother. It could be a student. We just don't know.”

· The ACLU opposes the Computer-Assisted Passenger Profiling System (CAPPS) used by airlines to check for various passenger characteristics that have historically been correlated with terrorist motives. In late 1997, when the CAPPS system was first set to be put in place, the ACLU set up a special online complaint form to collect information on incidents of alleged discrimination and mistreatment by airport security personnel. As Gregory Nojeim explained, his organization was “concerned that the CAPPS system will have an unequal impact on some passengers, resulting in their being selected for treatment as potential terrorists based on their race, religion or national origin.”

· Consistent with its belief that the U.S. is a nation infested with racism and injustice, the ACLU of Southern California endorsed an October 22, 2002, National Day of Protest exhorting Americans to demonstrate against their country’s “resoundingly repressive atmosphere,” where “[h]ard-won civil liberties and protections have been stripped away as part of the government's ‘war on terrorism.’” In a document publicizing this event, the ACLU explicitly defended terrorist-supporters such as Lynne Stewart and Jose Padilla, and murderers like Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Leonard Peltier – depicting them as persecuted political prisoners of a repressive American government.

· The ACLU's Immigration Task Force is a driving factor behind the Open Borders Lobby, its efforts serving to increase the likelihood that aspiring terrorists can enter the U.S. with impunity.

· The ACLU has opposed all Justice Department proposals to fingerprint and track immigrants and foreign visitors to the United States, claiming that such measures “treat immigrant populations as a separate and quasi-criminal element of society.”

· The ACLU opposes a Justice Department initiative that would give local and state police the power to enforce immigration laws. “Local police should not be in the business of detaining or arresting law-abiding aliens based on their immigration status,” says Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

· The ACLU opposes the Computer-Assisted Passenger Profiling System (CAPPS) used by airlines to check for various passenger characteristics that have historically been correlated with terrorist motives. In late 1997, when the CAPPS system was first set to be put in place, the ACLU set up a special online complaint form to collect information on incidents of discrimination and mistreatment by airport security personnel.

· To prevent heightened scrutiny of passengers whose profiles suggest the possibility of involvement in terrorism, the ACLU has represented many Muslim plaintiffs in discrimination lawsuits against the airline industry.

· The Texas chapter of the ACLU was a signatory to a February 20, 2002 document, composed by the radical group Refuse & Resist – condemning military tribunals and the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. It should be noted that Refuse & Resist is a front group for the Revolutionary Communist Party and was founded by the longtime Maoist, Charles Clark Kissinger.

· The ACLU has given its organizational endorsement to the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign, a project of the California-based Coalition for Civil Liberties (CCL). The CCL tries to influence city councils to pass resolutions creating Civil Liberties Safe Zones; that is, to be non-compliant with the provisions of the Patriot Act.

· The ACLU endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act (CLRA) of 2004, which was introduced by Democrats Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Russell Feingold, Richard Durbin, Jon Corzine, Howard Berman, and William Delahunt. The CLRA was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

· In August 2005, it was reported that the Pentagon was permitting ACLU lawyers to sit in on interrogations of the al Qaeda and Taliban enemy combatants being held in Guantanamo; in the majority of cases, these attorneys advised the prisoners that they were under no obligation to answer military interrogators' questions.

On many occasions, the ACLU has publicly and proactively defended individuals accused of serious terrorism-related offenses. In 2003, for example, it held rallies on behalf of an Intel software engineer in Oregon named Maher Mofeid Hawash, who U.S. officials were keeping in custody on suspicion that he had given material support to Taliban and al-Qaeda forces fighting American troops in Afghanistan. In February 2004, Hawash was convicted of the aforementioned crimes and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The ACLU also rushed to the defense of University of South Florida Professor Sami al-Arian, who once served as the North American head of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). In an effort to thwart the government's investigation of al-Arian's role in funding PIJ suicide bombings in Israel, the ACLU said that the search warrants authorizing an FBI raid of his home and offices were overly broad, and that the vast number of items seized as evidence should therefore be returned to him. The FBI had compiled eight years of incriminating wiretaps and intercepted faxes to make its case against al-Arian. The 120-page Justice Department indictment enumerated some 200 specific acts connecting al-Arian to terrorism.

The indictment further charged that Al-Arian maintained connections to the aforementioned Omar Abdel Rahman; Hamas official Mohammed Sakr; the high-ranking Sudanese terrorist Hassan Turbai; and Islamic Jihad co-founder Abdel Aziz-Odeh. Though earlier this month al-Arian was acquitted of having acted “in furtherance of” terrorist attacks, he admitted during his trial that he did indeed have a close working relationship with PIJ, and that soon after President Clinton had signed an executive order prohibiting financial and material support of PIJ, al-Arian wrote a letter to a Kuwaiti legislator exhorting him to provide “support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that [suicide] operations such as these can continue.”

The ACLU’s support of terrorists is by no means restricted to foreign-born Islamists. Indeed the organization named unrepentant New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its advisory board. Dohrn, along with her husband Bill Ayers, was a 1960s anti-American militant and leader of the homegrown terrorist group the Weathermen (later known as the Weather Underground) – described by Ayers as “an American Red Army.” The organization’s objective was to launch a race war in America, and thereby hasten an Armageddon in which the Third World would wreak its revenge on the proverbial “Amerikkkan” beast. The Weathermen bombed the U.S. Capitol building, New York City Police Headquarters, the Pentagon, and the National Guard offices in Washington, D.C. At a 1969 “War Council” meeting to form a terrorist underground held in Flint, Michigan, Dohrn held her fingers up in a fork salute and said of the murders committed by Charles Manson and his gang: “Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”

Dohrn is currently a clinical associate professor at Northwestern University Law School; her anti-Americanism remains as profound as ever. “During your student years here,” Dohrn said to her students recently, “the cruelly brutal, criminal attacks of September 11, 2001, the shredded economy and loss of jobs, the consequences of deregulation and devolution that bankrupted state and local governments, the relentless punishment and imprisoning of over two million people in America, flagrant corporate plunder and criminality, rolling blackouts, the apparently permanent war on terrorism, the shock and awe occupation of Iraq, systematic and degrading detention without trial, torture and extra-judicial assassinations, and the establishment of a crescent of new U.S. military bases across the Middle East and South Asia -- all have transformed whatever blissful illusions were harbored as you entered college.”

The ACLU also came to the defense of radical attorney Lynne Stewart, who in February 2005 was convicted on charges that she had illegally “facilitated and concealed communications” between her client, the incarcerated “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, and members of his Egyptian terrorist organization, the Islamic Group, which has ties to al Qaeda. Rahman had masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and had planned, in addition, to blow up the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and the George Washington Bridge during New York's rush hour; the latter plot was thwarted by the FBI. Rahman’s ideals were entirely consistent with those of Stewart, who once told a New York Times reporter:

“I don't believe in anarchistic violence, but in directed violence. That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism, and sexism, and the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support.”

On February 17 of this year, just after Stewart had been convicted and sentenced for her crimes, the ACLU of Massachusetts declared that “the prosecution of Lynne Stewart is a chilling testament to what is being done to individual rights and to the rule of law itself in the name of ‘fighting terrorism.’ The right to the assistance of counsel is central to the guarantee of a fair trial, but that right is under attack. U.S. citizens termed ‘enemy combatants’ have been held for years without access to lawyers and the courts, as have those detained at Guantanamo…The ACLU of Massachusetts deplores the undermining of lawyer-client confidentiality by the Justice Department, and maintains that the ‘Special Administrative Measure’ (SAM), which Lynne Stewart was found guilty of violating, is fundamentally inconsistent with the Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel.”

When Dwight Sullivan, who had spent six years working for the ACLU, was appointed in July 2005 to be chief defense counsel for the military tribunals at Guantanamo, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero cheerfully predicted that Sullivan “will bring renewed energy to the defense team at a critical time in the proceedings. He uniquely possesses substantial knowledge of military law and deep commitment to civil liberties.”

Exactly who were the individuals whose civil liberties Sullivan would be safeguarding so vigorously? They were: (a) David Hicks (a.k.a. Mohammed Dawood), an Australian-born member of Lashkar-I-Taiba, an al Qaeda-affiliated group of Kashmiri terrorists headquartered in Pakistan. (b) Salim Hamdan, who worked as Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, and who was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001; (c) Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a key al Qaeda propagandist and also a bin Laden bodyguard, who produced recruitment and motivational videos glorifying the murder of Americans; and (d) Ibrahim al-Qosi, a Sudanese accountant who served variously as a cook, driver, and bodyguard for bin Laden, and who helped funnel money to al Qaeda for explosives and weapons.Wherever the ACLU looks, it sees evidence of American wrongdoing. Whoever the adversary may be in any international dispute involving the United States, one can be certain that the ACLU will side with that party. In a May 2004 letter to President Bush, the ACLU called the prisoner abuses at the Abu Ghraib detention center in Iraq a “predictable result” of unlawful American policies, and demanded that the U.S. government comply immediately with the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act request for information on the reported “torture” of detainees.

“Abu Ghraib wasn't the result of a couple of lone sadists in the military -- it was a direct and easily foreseen consequence of detention policies that lack transparency and safeguards against this type of abuse,” said Anthony Romero. “In America, the war on terrorism quickly became a war on immigrants, where the rule of law was ignored. Abu Ghraib is just another example of what happens when the White House sets itself as above the law in national security matters. Not only is our sense of right and wrong offended, our safety is also endangered as the world turns against us.”

In January 2005, the ACLU similarly alleged (against compelling evidence to the contrary) that prisoners captured in the War on Terror were being tortured in Guantanamo Bay. “Shameful as it is, the full story of our government's sanctioned torture and abuse of detainees must see the light of day if we are to ever restore our reputation as a nation dedicated to the rule of law,” said Romero. But contrary to his feigned reluctance to bring attention to this “shameful” saga, Romero is in fact consistently eager to do so.

As demonstrated by the evidence presented in this essay, the ACLU’s tireless efforts to undermine American security are rooted not in its purported love for liberty, but rather in its burning hatred for the United States. In that sense, little has changed since the organization was first established in 1920. As co-founder Roger Baldwin candidly stated years after having launched his group, “I am for socialism, disarmament, and ultimately, for abolishing the state itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion. I seek social ownership of property, the abolition of the properties class, and sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal. It all sums up into one single purpose -- the abolition of dog-eat-dog under which we live. I don't regret being part of the communist tactic. I knew what I was doing. I was not an innocent liberal. I wanted what the communists wanted and I traveled the United Front road to get it.”

The New York Times, like the rest of the leftwing media, does not tell readers this part of the ACLU story. Instead it depicts the organization as a revered civil liberties icon and defender of the vulnerable. Thus, a group devoted to the very destruction of America succeeds in portraying itself as the guardian of American values and freedoms.

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John Perazzo is the author of The Myths That Divide Us: How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations. For more information on his book, click here. E-mail him at

Michelle Malkin: The Left's Privacy Hypocrites

December 21, 2005
Michelle Malkin

Allow me to sum up the homeland security strategy of America's do-nothing brigade, led by the armchair generals at The New York Times and ACLU headquarters:

First, bar law enforcement at all levels from taking race, ethnicity, national origin and religion into account when assessing radical Islamic terror threats. (But continue to allow the use of those factors to ensure "diversity" in public-college admissions, contracting, and police- and fire-department hiring.)

Second, institute the "Eenie-meenie-miny-moe" random-search program at all subways, railways and bus stations.

Third, open the borders, sabotage all immigration enforcement efforts and scream "Racist" at any law-abiding American who protests.

Fourth, sue. Sue. Sue.

Fifth, yell "Connect the dots!" while rebuilding and strengthening the walls that prevent information-sharing between the CIA, State Department, Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other key government agencies.

Sixth, hang the white flag and declare victory.

Seventh, sit back and wait to blame the president for failing to take aggressive, preventative measures when the next terrorist attack hits.


The hindsight hypocrisy of the civil-liberties absolutists never ceases to amaze. And their selective outrage over privacy violations never ceases to aggravate. Last Friday, The New York Times splashed classified information about the National Security Agency's surveillance of international communications between suspected al Qaeda operatives and their contacts all over the front page in a naked attempt to sabotage the Patriot Act. This Tuesday, the newspaper continued to stir fears of "spying on all innocent Americans" by recycling old ACLU complaints about FBI monitoring of radical environmental groups, antiwar activists and some Muslim leaders and groups.

Alarmists in the Beltway want investigations (though not of the leakers who fed the Times its story). The civil-liberties sky is falling, they say, and never have Americans been subjected to such invasive snooping.

Funny enough, another story about unprecedented domestic spying measures broke a week before the Times' stunt. But neither the Times nor the ACLU nor the Democratic Party leadership had a peep to say about the reported infringements on Americans' civil liberties. Sen. Charles Schumer (by the way, Chuck, how's that apology to Lt. Gov. Michael Steele over his stolen credit report coming along?) did not rush to the cameras to call the alleged privacy breach "shocking." Sen. Robert Byrd did not awake from his slumber to decry the adoption of "the thuggish practices of our enemies." The indignant New York Times editorial board did not call for heads to roll.

That's because the targets of the spy scandal that didn't make the front-page headlines were politically incorrect right-wing extremists.

According to the McCurtain Daily Gazette, in the days after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the U.S. government used a spy satellite to gather intelligence on a white separatist compound in Oklahoma. The paper obtained a Secret Service log showing that on May 2, 1995, two weeks after the April 19 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people, the FBI was trying to locate suspects for questioning.

Investigators zeroed in on the compound in nearby Elohim City. "Satellite assets have been tasked to provide intelligence concerning the compound," the document said, according to the Gazette and Associated Press. The Gazette noted that "America's spy-satellite program is jointly under the control of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). Targeting decisions are classified; however, persons familiar with the project say any domestic use of these satellites is barred by agreements between the CIA and DoD." Photoreconnaissance satellites that gather intelligence from space usually target hostile governments and foreign terrorists. "The domestic use of a military satellite for domestic spying is a violation of DoD and CIA regulations regarding the proper use of top-secret national security satellites," the Gazette reported.

But with the exception of a brief Associated Press recap, the story received absolutely no mainstream-media attention. No civil-liberties circus. No White House press-corps pandemonium.

The left believes the government should do whatever it takes to fight terrorists -- but only when the terrorists look like Timothy McVeigh. If you're on the MCI Friends and Family plan of Osama bin Laden and Abu Zubaydah, you're home free.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Dan Shaughnessy: For Bosox, a little off the top

The Boston Globe
December 21, 2005

No way around this one. Johnny Damon is a Yankee and it looks like the Red Sox don't know what they are doing. Time for Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer to say hello to Lou Gorman and Dan Duquette. Looks like John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino finally know what it feels like to be Haywood Sullivan, Buddy LeRoux, and/or John Harrington.

While New England slept last night, Damon got into bed with the enemy. Sox officials smugly believed there was no market for their marquee center fielder and the Yankees took advantage of Boston's big sleep.

Damon agreed to a four-year, $52 million pact with the Yankees sometime yesterday and when Sox CEO Larry Lucchino got home at 11 last night, all he could say was, ''We don't have comments on ongoing negotiations. We have received no such notification [of Damon signing with the Yankees]. We have not been notified of any such deal."

Asked if it would be standard procedure for the Sox to be made aware of their free agent center fielder signing with another team, Lucchino said, ''It's generally customary."

So now your Boston Red Sox have no center fielder, no shortstop, and no first baseman to go along with no Theo Epstein and no clue. It's fair to say this is becoming a winter of discontent in Red Sox Nation. Ben and Jed and Craig and Larry and Tom and John and Crosby, Stills & Nash can spin this anyway they want, but Sox fans can't escape the conclusion that there's chaos at the top. The Josh Beckett trade bought some goodwill and glad tidings, but losing Damon to the Yankees is a devastating blow to the foundation of the Nation.

The Sox won't recover from this one easily. In an already dismal offseason, they've now lost their center fielder and their leadoff hitter. They've also lost a local icon, a rare favorite of teenage girls and fanboy bloggers. Losing Damon hurts them on the field and in the arena of popular opinion. And losing Damon to the Yankees compounds the damage. When Alex Rodriguez got away a couple of years ago, Sox fans were fairly quick to scorn A-Rod and move forward.

Losing Damon won't draw the same reaction. The Idiot center fielder is Johnny Angel with Sox fans and his production in pinstripes will be a personal affront to Red Sox fans around the world.
Damon was quick to say he'll get on board, and cut his hair and shave to conform to Yankee ways. An all-too-modern ballplayer, he switched allegiance from Boston to New York before you could say, ''the New York Times owns 17 percent of the Red Sox."

Here's what Damon told Channel 4: ''They were coming after me aggressively. We know George Steinbrenner's reputation. He always wants to have the best players. He showed that tonight. He and Brian Cashman came after me hard. Now I'm part of the Yankees and that great lineup. We're going to be tough to beat."

We? Johnny, how could you? It took only a few minutes and $52 million to make you start calling the Yankees ''we."

Actually, it's pretty easy to understand. For all of his athletic gifts, we always knew Johnny had the depth of your average kiddie pool, and it's therefore entirely believable that he could invoke the royal Yankee ''we" so quickly.

He had no problem hanging the Sox brass out to dry.

''I tried everything in my power to come back," he told Channel 4's Steve Burton. ''I made contact with them [the Sox]. I talked to Tito [Sox manager Terry Francona]. I told them they need to really get going because, if not, I'm going to be on another team. Unfortunately, Boston had their plans. I'm not sure they knew that I meant it. But now I'm a Yankee and hopefully they can go off and go get the other center fielders they've been courting for the past month or so.

''Our policy with the Yankees is to go out and win, and we're going to try to bring another championship to them. They haven't had a championship since Chuck Knoblauch was there when they had a great leadoff hitter so I think the leadoff role has been underappreciated. A good leadoff hitter is tough to find and I think New York just found the best leadoff hitter in the game."

Thanks, Johnny. Very humble of you.

This signing will polarize the Nation. Most fans will paint the current Sox bosses as buffoons and there's good evidence to support the charge. But others will see Damon as a traitor, a mercenary ballplayer no different than Messrs. Clemens or Boggs. Damon went to the Yankees because they offered him $52 million over four years while the Sox offered $40 million over four. We all know simple Johnny loves to be romanced, and the Apple has Regis and Kelly and infinite possibilities for Johnny and Michelle sightings on Page Six. The Sox certainly couldn't compete with that.

Bottom line: The Yankees just got better and more interesting, and the Red Sox just got worse and more boring. And a Nation is certain to wonder if this would have happened if Theo were still on the job.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

Paterno caps his revival with AP coach of the year honors

Penn State coach wins honor day before his 79th birthday
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
By Chico Harlan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the same way that Joe Paterno grouses about celebrating birthdays -- his 79th greets him today, and those who know him believe he would rather stick his face in the cake than acknowledge the attention -- he similarly shies away from celebrating great seasons.

Even this one, a 10-1 season that has led Penn State to the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl and emphatically restored pride in a program and the man who almost single-handedly built it.

Now, Paterno has a twofer of attention he would rather go without. A day before his birthday, The Associated Press named Paterno its college football coach of the year, an award that caps his most recent year of improbable achievements.

Entering the 2005 season, Penn State -- and its increasingly beleaguered coach -- had floundered through four losing efforts in five years. That period converted loyalists into questioners, until Paterno became virtually the final public figure speaking faithfully about the direction of his football team.

He said the team was close. That it needed only a few freshman playmakers at a few key positions. That it required patience and faith.

One Big Ten championship later, all of those notions only inspire agreeing head nods, but there's one thing Paterno refuses to say: "I told you so."

"What good does it do for me to say, 'I told you so?' " he said. "... I'm not a vindictive guy. I don't read the papers. I realize the media's got a job to do and I realize the alumni, if they're interested in your program, are going to die when you lose and so forth, and a lot of them get carried away."

Paterno has left anecdotal evidence -- this award, most recently -- to speak for the convictions he always had. Forty-five of the AP's 65 participating media members voted for Paterno, who beat out Texas's Mack Brown (eight votes), Notre Dame's Charlie Weis (three votes) and Southern California's Pete Carroll (three votes). West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez received two.

Yesterday, the Sporting News also named Paterno its coach of the year.

This year, Paterno charted a course of challenges and changes. Before spring practice began, Paterno, forcing himself to become more involved in recruiting, had already signed several of the top recruits, including Derrick Williams and Justin King, who would help key the Nittany Lions' turnaround. Williams and King enrolled at Penn State for the winter 2005 semester, and even then, players and Paterno alike teemed with confidence.

Still, Paterno faced obstacles. He helped his offensive assistants implement a playbook with more reliance on three- and four-wideout sets. Several seniors faced discipline problems in the spring and summer. During a summer vacation, Paterno's wife, Sue, broke her leg, resulting in a trying recovery process that turned Paterno, when at home, into a caretaker.

Now, though, Penn State has only one game remaining -- the Orange Bowl against Florida State. In preparation, the Lions traveled yesterday to Delray Beach, Fla., where they will practice for almost a week.

"You play it by ear," Paterno said of how his team will prepare. "I will watch them and make sure that we try to stay focused and understand what a tough game this is going to be because Florida State is going to be, maybe, as tough a game as we could possibly have played."

Penn State hasn't played since Nov. 19, when it defeated Michigan State and clinched its conference title. In the most recent month, the Lions have relaxed, and, to a degree, relished their accomplishments of the season.

Not that Paterno is joining them.

"The only thing I feel sometimes is that the head coach gets too much credit," he said. "I think sometimes it ought to be the coaching staff of the year."

NOTE -- Linebacker Paul Posluszny and defensive lineman Tamba Hali were named to the Sporting News' All-American first team. Cornerback Alan Zemaitis was on the second team.
Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who turns 79 today, received 45 of the 65 first-place votes for The Associated Press coach of the year.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report. Chico Harlan can be reached at or 412-263-1227.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Washington Times: No Crime in Bush's Spying

Washington Times
December 20, 2005

[Below is the Washington Times' editorial on the issue of spying on terrorists. Our only quibble: The National Security Agency's Echelon project spied on "trillions" of American citizens' conversations during the Clinton administration. Otherwise, the editorial is spot-on. -- The Editors of Front Page Magazine.]

Should the National Security Agency secretly eavesdrop on the telephone conversations of suspicious persons in the United States calling al-Qaeda operatives overseas? We might be more shocked if the Bush administration hadn't authorized such surveillance, provided it was done within the law. NSA's substantial resources, like those of the CIA and the military, should be properly and legally harnessed to fight the al-Qaeda threat wherever it appears.

Questions have been raised whether President Bush can do this without violating the law. He thinks he can: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows it, with congressional oversight and checks on executive authority, as well as presidential war powers. The guardians of civil liberties who object may be mistaking precedent -- that the NSA didn't engage in domestic spying activities until late 2001 or early 2002 -- for a nonexistent law saying that it can't.

Mr. Bush answered questions yesterday with unusual passion: that terrorists and their collaborators are agents of a foreign power on whom the government should be allowed to spy because such spying protects and preserves American lives. He had said in his Saturday radio address: "Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to al-Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here until it was too late." Listening to their conversations -- both were aliens, one here illegally, one legally -- could have prevented tragedy.

The voices of outrage misread the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Title 50 of the U.S. Code, Chapter 36, Subchapter I, Section 1802, "Electronic surveillance authorization without court order," reads: "[T]he President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year," provided a series of conditions are met. Surveillance must be directed only at agents of foreign powers; there can be no likely surveillance of a "U.S. person" (more on this term below); and there must be strict congressional oversight in the intelligence committees. Mr. Bush says he has complied with these laws.

The critics ignore the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, enacted by Congress shortly after September 11, which can be viewed as a congressional declaration of war on the terrorists and a stamp of approval for the president's wartime actions.

And if the NSA ends up spying on a U.S. citizen? The "U.S. person" definition "does not include a corporation or an association which is a foreign power," according to the same law. An "agent of a foreign power" is anyone, citizen or otherwise, who "knowingly engages in sabotage or international terrorism, or activities that are in preparation therefor, for or on behalf of a foreign power." Which means that people who do not help al-Qaeda or other terrorists are safe from surveillance. Anyone who does, however, forfeits his rights and can be targeted for eavesdropping.

There is little novel about the domestic-spying revelations, only that Mr. Bush has chosen to break precedent by harnessing the NSA's substantial resources. Any government intrusion into private lives should make us all uneasy, but given the givens, given NSA's capabilities and above all the fearsome magnitude of the threat, we think the president's arguments persuasive.

Mr. Bush has not flinched from the criticism, and we applaud him for that. Congress could clear the confusion with an unmistakeable formal declaration of war on radical Islamist terrorism. Congressmen who sit on the intelligence committee could detail just how much they know and how long they've known it; it seems clear that several of the critics had prior knowledge of the program. In an era of airport searches and bomb-sniffing dogs, should a suspicious telephone call to Iran or Algeria be exempt from the war on terror?

Dennis Byrne: What's So Scary About Intelligent Design?

December 20, 2005
The Chicago Tribune
Dennis Byrne

Here is a question for scientists who ridicule intelligent design, yet say they believe in God: When you pray, is it to a God who just sat around and watched the universe spring into existence all by itself?

Or did God give himself something to do, and thus, here we are?

It's hard to envision an all-perfect and almighty God who just likes to watch. But that's the kind of God that the critics of intelligent design would impose on us. Scientists, of course, would vehemently deny that they are in any way trying to tell people of faith what kind of God they should believe in. But they need to honestly admit that this battle between evolution and intelligent design is a two-way street: People of faith should not be directing scientists how to do their work and scientists ought to be more thoughtful and respectful about how their work complicates or complements the world of belief. Science as well as theology, philosophy and religion have legitimate claims to exploring and discovering answers to the Big Question: How did we get here, and why?

Some things science just can't explain. Such as the mystery of how a perfect creator turned himself into one of his less-than perfect creations--a man--but still remained perfect. Based on faith alone, millions of people celebrate that inexplicable miracle on Christmas.

Scientists, in fact, can't explain a lot of things, and that's no knock on scientists. It's because a lot of answers cannot meet the scientific standards of observation, experimentation, replication and verification. But it's also no reason that any subject of scientific interest cannot also be explored by theology, philosophy and religion.

Yet the fight between intelligent design and evolution is popularly framed as an effort by theologians, philosophers and the faithful to impose their unscientific conclusions on science. Perhaps a few dominators do, but most of us do feel the need to reconcile what science and faith tell us--about our world and us.

The reality today is that when theology, philosophy or religion dares to examine the Big Question, its practitioners find themselves increasingly bumping heads with scientific claims of exclusive competence. This is wrong. Neither science nor theology has the right to tell the other to butt out of this quest. In this, no one has the right to demand that the study of intelligent design be kept out of schools. Out of the science class, perhaps, but not out of all classrooms.

Centuries ago, science on one hand and philosophy, theology and religion on the other were separated--to the relief of those who correctly believed that the church had gone too far in using dogma to block scientific advances. Exploring reality through the prism of science requires one form of knowledge, while discovering and refining our understanding of God and his presence in the world require another.

Now that pendulum has swung too far the other way, to the point that science and philosophy, and theology and religion are regarded, by some, as mortal enemies. The idea of unified knowledge has come on hard times. Few people are exploring how the two approaches can help each other. That science is rushing toward a unified theory that "explains everything" is not a reason to abandon non-scientific ways to approach a comprehensive understanding of everything.

This requires an admission that there is a higher level of knowledge beyond science alone or theology alone. Vast areas of knowledge are open to those who realize that just as a branch of physics examines the "first principle of everything," so does metaphysics. Or that cosmology and theology are on the same coin, just on different sides.

We should approach the Big Question with awe and humility, not ridicule and self-certainty. With excitement and optimism, instead of division and the kind of cynicism that rejects the possibility of parallel or complementary explanations.

To leave students without a perspective of how philosophy and theology and religion help bring us to an understanding of "all things," is as wrong as denying students the understanding that science brings. Philosophers and theologians may--must, actually--rigorously examine the scientific theory that random chance explains everything. A denial of that right and responsibility rises from the same spirit of arrogant certitude that haunted Galileo.

Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant.

Debra Saunders: National Insecurity

December 20, 2005
The San Fransisco Chronicle
Debra Saunders

Some D.C. Democrats are demanding an investigation -- impeachment even -- in the wake of last week's New York Times story about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on international calls and e-mails from suspected terror players to Americans. The shriller they get, the more President Bush looks like a strong leader who is willing to stick out his neck and take the heat to protect the American people.

As The New York Times reported, several officials credit the NSA eavesdropping with uncovering a plot by Iyman Faris to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge. The paper also reported that the NSA "special collection program" began in early 2002, after the CIA captured al-Qaida biggie Abu Zubaydah and others, along with their computers, cell phones and directors. Are there really Americans who would want intelligence agents to take their time -- delay hours or more -- with that information?

Hold hearings -- please. While Bush's constant critics carp at the questionable legality of what the White House did, it is clear that this is no Watergate: Dubya authorized more than 30 orders extending the NSA eavesdropping. This also is no Iran-Contra: The Bushies informed members of Congress.

As former White House lawyer Brad Blakeman noted: "The fact is, it's reviewed every 45 days. There's a paper trail for it being done. There were consultations with Congress." Why the outrage, then? Try: "Some of our democratic opponents are trying to weaken this president at the expense of our country."

It is not an attractive pattern -- far-left Democrats vote with Bush, then pounce when the president's poll numbers drop. Note that some Democrats who voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 -- as in California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein -- supported last week's filibuster that prevented the Senate from voting up or down on the measure's reauthorization.

As Bush said, the filibustering senators "need to explain why they thought the Patriot Act was a vital tool after the September the 11th attacks but now think it's no longer necessary."

Watch what surely will happen next. The public will show support for Bush on the Patriot Act. Then principle-challenged Democrats will find a pretense for supporting the law.

Civil liberties? Sorry, but if Democrats cared about civil liberties, they would object to federal funding of random drug tests for public school students. Oddly, many support random drug tests for innocent kids -- then get teary-eyed about the privacy rights of cell-phone terrorists.

Then there's the Democrats' about-face on Iraq. Too many supported the resolution authorizing force in Iraq when it was popular, only to undermine the war effort as support for the war softened in the polls -- with little a thought as to how their actions affect the welfare of U.S. troops stationed abroad.

So Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., warned, "It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be commander in chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril."

Do I have concerns about the NSA eavesdropping? Sure. But then, so did the administration, which according to The New York Times, suspended parts of the program as officials feared that the NSA "was in danger of misleading" federal courts. Other critics note the NSA could get warrants without much difficulty.

Yes, the nation's spooks should obtain warrants unless there is good reason not to. But if there is good reason not to get a warrant for calls or e-mails coming from overseas, then, I say, eavesdrop first, ask questions later.

As for the get-Bush crowd, I have a little suggestion: Don't tie the hands of the intelligence community -- and then hold hearings about intelligence breakdowns if there is another attack on American soil.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Monday, December 19, 2005

Father Raymond J. de Souza: Toward a Holy Order

December 08, 2005, 8:27 a.m.
Homosexuality and the priesthood.

In the week since the Vatican released its new "Instruction" on the admission of men with homosexual tendencies to seminaries or to Holy Orders, there has been an impressive amount of commentary on what exactly it means. While the release of a Vatican document is always accompanied by commentators who argue mightily that it does not mean what it in fact plainly says, this time there is some genuine uncertainty about how best to interpret the Instruction — and from quarters which are by no means lacking in fidelity to Church teaching.

The key passage says that "those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture' should not be admitted to seminaries or ordained priests."

The first and third categories seem clear enough. A man who is sexually active with others — men or women — clearly cannot be admitted to the seminary unless and until he has learned to live chastely. As for the "gay culture," it seems obvious that a potential priest cannot support initiatives which encourage homosexual acts, or even the affirmation of the homosexual orientation as something good in itself.

What does "deep-seated" mean?

That leaves the second category: "those who present deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

The first thing to be observed is that the language chosen — after some five years or more of consideration — does not define a "deep-seated" homosexual tendency. It also seems reasonable to conclude that a homosexual tendency which is not "deep-seated" does not constitute a barrier to Holy Orders.

The Instruction makes it clear that bishops, seminary rectors, spiritual directors, and confessors are to make this determination. So, speaking only for myself, how would I apply the distinction between what is deep-seated and what is not?

Given the adolescent environment in North America today, it is not surprising that young men who are not in fact homosexual might have experienced homosexual tendencies. A youth culture of sexual libertinism, coupled with an assertive promotion of the gay culture in both high schools and on university campuses, makes this a growing phenomenon.

In a different way, this may also apply to places in the world where boys enter preparatory seminaries at a young age. A teenage boy who enters the all-male environment of a seminary, and lives his entire adolescence in such an environment, may experience homosexual tendencies. This is not due to a libertine environment (!) but simply the fact that the male sexual appetite is attracted by what it sees, and in an all-male environment what is seen is other men.

In such cases, it would seem that these tendencies are of the "transitory" nature which the Instruction indicates do not constitute a barrier to ordination if they are overcome for a period of time (three years).

The more difficult case is the man who experiences homosexual tendencies for a prolonged period of time, but lives chastely, unequivocally accepts the Church's teaching that the homosexual orientation is disordered, and, moreover, wishes to be free of homosexual tendencies. Does such a man have the "deep-seated" tendencies which are a barrier to seminary admission?

Different answers could be given.

A plausible reading of the Instruction is that "deep-seated" is opposed to "transitory," meaning that a homosexual tendency which endures for a prolonged period is "deep-seated." Some commentators have said that the Instruction judges such men unsuitable for admission to the seminary. If the tendency is enduring, it is therefore disqualifying.
I would answer slightly differently. I think "deep-seated" can plausibly be read as referring to how "deep" the tendency is rooted in the personality.

If a man habitually sees the men around him as objects of sexual desire, that would be a "deep-seated" tendency that would "hinder [him] from relating correctly to men and women," as the Instruction puts it. If the man understands himself in terms of his homosexual tendencies or orientation, that would also be a "deep-seated" phenomenon, as the personality itself is understood in reference to what is a disordered orientation.

It seems clear that the Instruction rejects as unsuitable for the priesthood those whose identity is defined by what Catholic doctrine regards as a disordered sexual tendency. It could hardly be otherwise — a man who defines his identity in relation to homosexuality would be defining himself in terms directly contrary to the Christian sexual ethic.

Yet there are also men who experience homosexual tendencies, but for whom such tendencies do not penetrate deep within the personality. The tendencies do not constitute a significant dimension of the man's identity, and are suffered and struggled against. Does such a man have the "deep-seated" tendencies the Instruction addresses? Clearly, a careful, searching, and honest examination would have to be undertaken, but it appears that admission of such candidates would not violate the letter or the spirit of the Instruction.

Common parlance may call all men who experience homosexual tendencies "gay men," but it would be more accurate to describe them as men who live with homosexual tendencies. This distinction is considered risible by those for whom sexuality is the dominant force in identity, but it does in fact address the concrete situation of many men. And there is wide variation in the degree to which those tendencies are suffered. It is likely that there are men who would be considered "gay" in the most expansive use of the term, but for whom homosexual tendencies are not a significant part of their identity. Perhaps they are enduring, but they are not "deep-seated".

Tendencies vs. Identity

The Instruction demonstrates the Church's basic disposition toward sexuality — it is vitally important but is not all-important. In relation to homosexuality, the Church stands foursquare against the cultural winds because she does not accept that a homosexual identity is a good, or even neutral, matter. Inter alia, this latter point extends an implied invitation to those dioceses which have "gay and lesbian ministry" offices to examine whether they in fact, wittingly or not, accept and affirm just that.

The teaching of the Church about the requirements of the moral law is clear. Because homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral, the desire to engage in them is "disordered." That does not mean the tendency or orientation is sinful in and of itself (as it may not be voluntary), nor does it mean that those who have such tendencies are ill, or defective, or, above all, lacking in human dignity.

The Church does not believe that sexual appetites constitute the whole of a personality. Indeed, the Church never officially uses the expansive term "gay" or "homosexuals", but rather the more unwieldy formulation "persons with homosexual tendencies" or "homosexual persons." The focus is on the person, not the appetite. Sexuality is important, but it is not everything. It is does not constitute an identity.

If nothing else, the Instruction rejects the idea that homosexuality can be a neutral, or even good, identity, as long as homosexual acts are avoided. Perhaps out of a desire to defend the dignity of homosexual persons, many Catholics have advanced the idea that homosexual tendencies are of no different moral quality than heterosexual ones, and that even a homosexual identity can be affirmed or encouraged, as it is at least morally neutral, if not good. That position is not the Catholic one, and the Instruction makes it clear. That's a hard saying for our culture, but it is the ancient Christian wisdom on sexual ethics, and prospective priests have to be able to live and articulate that.

The Value of "Gay Priests"

The release of the Instruction provoked much muttering that the Vatican was saying that "gay priests," as the formulation inevitably put it, were no longer welcome, or that their ministry was without value.

That does not logically follow. There are many qualities priests should have, and there are many requirements for admission to the seminary and for Holy Orders. To take a simple example, a seminary would not recommend for ordination a man who was invariably short-tempered and unpleasant. Yet there are many priests who are like that, and no doubt they do some good work. One would not point to the existence of such ill-tempered priests to argue against insisting that seminarians be pleasant and even-tempered.

Even more to the point, a man would not be ordained if he was known to have a girlfriend on the side. There are some ordained priests who do in fact have mistresses or girlfriends. While it constitutes a grave sin and a source of scandal, we know from experience that some of those priests do outstanding work and are praised for the fruits of their ministry. But the fact that such priests might also do good work does not mean that priestly candidates should not be held to the standard of celibate chastity.

The false criticism that the Instruction constituted an attack on the good work done by "gay priests" was made by Andrew Sullivan in a dramatic fashion. He posted on his website the famous photograph of Fr. Mychal Judge at the World Trade Centre, adding a caption to the effect that Pope Benedict had judged Fr. Judge's work to be of no social value because he was gay (a matter about which there are competing claims).

I have a certain attachment to that photograph myself. It hangs in my office. In fact, I ordered several copies and had them framed as ordination gifts for my classmates. In the photograph I saw a priest who emptied himself to the very end. I thought it Providentially important that the first registered death at the World Trade Center was that of a Catholic priest. The photograph, so evocative of the deposition from the Cross, spoke vividly about the priest acting in persona Christi.

Mr. Sullivan sees a gay man first. I saw a priest. I didn't even know that some claimed he was gay when I ordered the photograph. When I discovered that afterwards, it did not change my mind about the value of the photograph, or of Fr. Judge's witness. To say that this Instruction puts that in question is tendentious.

On the subject of "gay priests" one cannot overlook what the Instruction delicately phrases as "the current situation." In 2002, while the current document was already in preparation, the sexual-abuse crisis hit. There were polemics on all sides of that, leading the American bishops to commission a comprehensive, independent study, which examined some 10,667 cases from 1950 to 2002. The study revealed that 81 percent of all cases involved priests abusing boys or adolescent males. While the independent commissioners refrained from asserting any causal link, noting that many priests with a homosexual orientation served well, they highlighted the high preponderance of homosexual abuse as an item requiring attention. This Instruction was not motivated by the sex-abuse crisis, but it can legitimately be considered part of the wider response.

What difference will it make?

This Instruction can, and will, be interpreted in various ways. Some of those will clearly be motivated by a desire to do the opposite of what the Instruction intends. Other interpretations, including this one I hope, will try to be careful in applying what the Instruction calls for — nothing less, but also nothing more.

As for the situation on the ground, it is my sense is that bishops and seminary rectors who are inclined to follow Instructions from Rome have long ago begun to operate within the scope of this Instruction. Those who are not inclined to follow Rome on this, or other matters, will remain so disinclined.

Whatever ambiguities may remain in the Instruction, it is a clarifying and teaching moment regarding a delicate subject. And that alone, along with the courage it took to publish it, is a valuable contribution.

— Father Raymond J. de Souza is a chaplain at Queen's University in Ontario.